How to tell if you’re a coder, part 1.

Step 1: Start browsing the games Xfire claims are installed on your system and come across a children’s version of that old game, Mastermind:

Step 2: Spend 15 minutes writing a program in Python to solve it for you.

Step 3: Suddenly realize you missed the point of the puzzle in the first place :P

We had to do a version of this game as a programming assignment in Pascal back in college. It took a lot longer than 15 minutes back then. Python > Pascal. That’s all.

MMO Gene Sequencer momentum builds…

Raph Koster today posted an article proposing that the reason people flock to games similar to ones they have already played is because they have no easy way of finding the alternatives. I agree! That’s a HUGE problem! How can I convince anyone Pi Story is a good game when they assume all MMOs must be 3D? How can I convince myself that oh, I dunno, Age of Conan is a game I’d like without going to the effort of buying it and installing it?

I really like Nexus: Kingdom of the Wind before EQ came out. What games are like that NOW? Without having a complete knowledge of all MMOs available, you can’t know. Raph even points to a comment to a Keen and Graev post that does a decent job of “sequencing” the modern EQ-type MMO (this includes WoW and its descendants).

Coldheat and I talked a lot about this last night. I talked about how we can look at modern MMOs as continually adding complexity (and in some cases, removing complexity) from older games (like Rogue, Colossal Cave Adventures, Risk), and how each decision made by a game designer could be thought of as adding, deleting or rearranging “genes”. Successful genes — design decisions — would be passed on to new games. Unsuccessful ones would not be copied.

Weighting these genes appropriately (which is the hard part), you could tell how similar two games were, which ancestors they shared, and hopefully, how much you might like a game given games you already liked. Or even more fun, proposing a bunch of characteristics (like Guild Wars, but with mandatory grouping and permadeath…) and getting a list selected from all the hundreds of MMOs that meets your needs.

So this morning, as I was setting up Shifter, my Shapeshifter solver, which required setting up some Python stuff since I hadn’t run Shifter since I re-installed Linux on Baphomet, I was thinking about what a web-based front end to such a database might look like. And today I am browsing Wired.com and see an article about the Python-based web framework, Django.

I’d briefly used other Python web frameworks, like Turbogears, but that was too much like work. I’d thought about making some Ruby on Rails stuff when I was between jobs, but I had nothing in particular to make with it, so that died. At work we use Struts and Hibernate with Java, and that REALLY seems like too much work. But a really simple Python-based framework…

So it’s all coming together. Since I have Friday off, I might use that time to try and pull together a data entry page so I can start breaking down the very earliest RPGs and MUDs into their component features. I think this “sequencing” of games will likely take the longest — how do you enumerate every feature in WoW? There must be millions. But until I get to entering data, I won’t know what the important ones are, the ones that by their very inclusion, advanced the genre. And this page must be robust, because if it works out, I will be making it public to hopefully get other people to help analyze the games they play.

I did something similar with my old book collection using keyword fields in a Q&A 4.0 database 20 years ago. Plot elements — time travel, romance, horror, elves, etc — cover artists, everything. But I never did much with it (aside from looking up cover artists) because I was pretty familiar with the books I had already read. Here, though, I will be entering information for games I have never played. So we’ll see how that goes.

I have lots of projects I start and never finish, but I think there is a real need for a MMO database that goes beyond just name and genre, and tells you its features in a way that can be compared and contrasted to other MMOs. So maybe I’ll be able to make time for this.

EQ2 – Game Update #46

Runnyeye: the Gathering

I spent hours last night running around Norrath on Test, killing stuff and doing quests, just so I could write about the Void Storms coming in EQ2’s Game Update 46. Is the next expansion The Void? Or is this just a red herring? Regardless, the appearance armor and weapons are kind of cool and there are a lot more benefits besides, and you can read all about it over on Massively. Fair warning: You will be doing a LOT of cleansing to earn the nicer rewards.

Last week, I had the honor of being taken to a quick tour of the new 80+ Runnyeye instance, “Runnyeye: The Gathering“. Insert “Magic: The Gathering” joke here :P I didn’t get a chance to really explore the instance, but even the little part I saw showed that the devs must have had a blast when they designed the adventure. R:tG is this year’s Nizara — awesome loot, but it’s not going to be a walk in the park. You can read all about it on Massively as well.

Time was also spent helping my son with his epic (good thing I hadn’t transferred my troub and inq to Najena; both were needed), and feeling crappy in the hot weather and falling asleep on the couch while Chime urged me to go to bed (in My Life as King for the Wii).

Nope. I can’t do it.

I can’t be a full time raider, perform my day job competently, be a professional blogger, play the wide variety of MMOs I need to play to do my job, participate in the two betas I am in (don’t ask), and also sleep. The past couple of weeks, sleep-debt has been killing me. Simple fact is, I need to be in bed 11PM each night. Staying up until 1, 2 or 3AM writing after raids is killing me.

The other writers warned me I wouldn’t be able to keep up a six night a week raiding schedule. I thought I could, but… well, I need to be awake when I write. I make stupid errors otherwise. So I’ll be talking to my guild leaders about cutting back my raiding obligation to two nights a week, or maybe it’s time to just go completely casual. I’ll never see my mythical epic, but the ordinary one is pretty sweet by itself… and there’s always pickup raiding.

Anyway, off to the dentist (yay).